5 SMX Advanced Key SEO Takeaways

The overarching message that I heard at this year’s SMX Conference was to focus on user intent. This has, in my opinion, always been what the focus should be when building a website and formulating on SEO plan.

5. SEO Ranking Factors

Cyrus Shepard from Moz gave some great insights into a correlation study they conducted regarding ranking factors for Google. Some of the highlights:

  • Anchor text is a very strong signal for both partial match and exact match queries.
  • The Title tag is fairly weak in terms of keyword but that hasn’t changed in 4 years and Google is very good at semantic search, which still makes the Title tag string important.
  • HTTPS has a small ranking signal but even Google has stated this could be a tie breaker in determining whether one page wins over another.
  • Links to a website from external domains has increased in terms of ranking importance over the past 4 years (despite Google saying otherwise). Cyrus’ study determined that 73.5% of pages they studied and were ranking for search terms had at least 1 external link.


4. Future SEO Ranking Factors

Rand Fishkin’s presentation on Future Ranking Elements gave insights into the Wizard of Moz’s view on what the engines may look at when ranking a website’s content. Here are the top 4:

  1. Website Usage Data: Engines will want to send searchers to a page with content that has greater visitor loyalty and engagement (time on site).
  2. Accuracy of Content: Google is looking at this already and may rank a website higher if the website’s content is consistently presenting accurate facts.
  3. Query Structure: Based on the searcher’s queries, Google may begin (or already have started to do so in some cases) connecting “popular searches around a brand could indicate associations”. This in turn would increase the rankings for that company’s website even if the content isn’t necessarily as good as another non-brand website.
  4. Weighting Elements of User Experience: We have seen over the past several years the updates Google has made to their algorithm and they are about usability and user experience. Google has consistently been trying to surface not only good quality content, but high quality websites.


3. Link Building

Ruth Burr gave an entertaining and well-formatted presentation on acquiring authoritative links and even referenced “How to Create Content for Boring Industries” written by Ronell Smith. I won’t go into everything she covered but the main takeaway had to do with building your content calendar.

Each month have 1 theme and 4 pieces of content: 1 local article, 2 evergreen content pieces and 1 link-worthy asset (such as video or InfoGraphic).

2. HTTP/2

Anytime a Google representative presents I’m all ears, especially when that person is Maile Ohye. Which is why this takeaway and the next one are my top 2. Google places a fair amount of ranking preference with websites that load fast. Which is why I believe Maile included this as one of the three items in her presentation on the Latest in Advanced SEO.

HTTP/2 is the next major update to the internet protocol since 1997 and the latest Chrome Beta is already provides support. This is a big deal for the following reasons:

  • Prioritized Resource Fetching: This will allow for web pages to send the most important assets for a web page to a client’s browser based on priority. For example, only the top most part of a web page can be sent first and the footer can be sent last. Or the middle of the page can be sent last and so on.
  • Infinite Parallel Requests: If you have ever used a page speed test tool, like PingDom, you will see a waterfall view of images, CSS, JavaScript etc. One page asset is sent after another. With HTTP/2, you can send them all at once.


1. Insights into Google Ranking Signals

The number takeaway from SMX that Maile presented was with non-visible or hidden content. This refers to content that is not visible until the user hovers over a portion of the page, has to click on a tab to view the content or an accordion style portion of the page. The content will still be indexed but with a downgraded importance.

In summary, make the most important content immediately visible to the visitor.

Sean Van Guilder About the author

Sean Van Guilder has been helping businesses get found on the internet for over 20 years. He has a 10,000 foot view of digital marketing that helps shed light on SEO as a business driver.  Sean has worn almost every digital marketing hat out there and brings strategies and tactics that have knocked the socks off of companies such as Microsoft, MSN and WONGDOODY, to name a few.  Currently, Sean is leading the SEO Practice for premier digital marketing agency, Point It, in Seattle.  Sean is a self-taught digital marketer and loves every minute of it.  When he’s not in front of a computer, he’s teasing his co-workers, playing sports, hanging with his kids, making music and collecting HO scale trains.

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